Make your own free website on

Chemical Exposure of our Military Personnel




Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are mixtures of up to 209 individual polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (called congeners). No natural sources of PCBs are known to exist. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they do not burn easily and are good insulators. These properties are the reason they were used widely in the electrical transformer manufacturing industry. PCBs were also used as plasticizers in paints, inks, and paper. ( PCB is a suspected carcinogen and is no longer manufactured. (

During Army operations at the Evans Area at Fort Monmouth, NJ, PCBs were used as insulating fluid in electrical equipment. Environmental studies identified 37 sites in the Main Post, Charles Wood, and Evans Areas that are contaminated. The prominent site types include landfills, underground storage tanks (UST), hazardous waste storage areas, PCB spill areas, asbestos areas, and radiological storage and spill areas. Primary contaminants released to groundwater and soil include petroleum hydrocarbons, PCB and heavy metals. (

Use of PCBs and disposal of PCB wastes lead to releases of PCBs in the environment, mostly to surface soils. The fate of PCBs in the environment depends on the environmental medium (e.g., air, soil, or water) that is contaminated. PCBs usually bind to soil and persist in the soil for many years. This is true for most PCB congeners that contain high amounts of chlorine such as the type released at the Evans Area. PCBs with lower amounts of chlorine can volatilize (evaporate) from contaminated soil into the air. (

PCBs are known to cause cancer in animals. However, the evidence that PCBs cause cancer in humans is not as clear. The potential for PCBs to cause cancer in humans has been investigated through human studies that have examined both occupational and environmental exposures. Some studies investigating exposures to PCBs in the work place (usually at much higher levels than what is found in the environment) have been associated with liver, biliary tract, intestinal, and skin cancer while others have found no statistically significant increase in cancer mortality. Although some of these studies did report a positive association, the limitations in the design of these studies and the inconsistency of results from one population to another make it difficult to ascertain whether the observed effects were causally related to PCB exposure. (